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Decision : CONF 204 IV.B.24
Heard and McDonald Islands (Australia)

The Committee, when it inscribed this property on the World Heritage List (Naples, 1997), had requested documentation on the marine resources surrounding this property. The Australian authorities informed the twenty-second extraordinary session of the Bureau (Kyoto, 1998) that the Australian Antarctic Division had granted funding to collate and analyse existing data on the benthic environments surrounding this property, including the territorial sea. In accordance with Australia’s plans to establish a marine protected area in the region, the project aims to assess whether the 12 nautical miles territorial sea provides a representative sample of marine biodiversity in the region. To enable such an assessment, a comprehensive research programme is to be undertaken to clearly identify the marine values of the area. The Bureau had invited the State Party to submit a report, before 15 April 1999, on the findings of the project to establish a marine protected area so as to enable it to review the report at its twenty-third session.

The Australian authorities had informed the Centre that the Heard Island and McDonald Island (HIMI) benthic project to establish a marine protected area includes a desktop study and a field survey. The desktop study commenced in January 1999 and was due to be completed in June 1999. It aims to document the distribution and abundance of different types of benthic habitats on the continental shelf around Heard Island, including an evaluation of the differences between benthic habitats in the territorial waters (0-12 nautical miles) and the remainder of the Australian (200 nautical miles) EEZ surrounding the Island. The field survey will examine the effect of trawling on these types of habitats and develop management options to protect environmental values of the benthic environments. The second stage, i.e. the field survey, is intended to be a pilot study to provide indicative results on habitats. Dependent upon the availability of the necessary ship transport, the Australian authorities estimate that the earliest opportunity for beginning the second stage will be in the summer of 2000/2001. The letter of 12 April 1999 from the Australian authorities has been transmitted to IUCN for comments.

IUCN commended the process to create a marine protected area around HIMI which it saw as essential to more effectively protect marine biodiversity.

The Bureau recommended that the State Party submits a report on the desktop study, due to be completed in June 1999, to the twenty-third extraordinary session of the Bureau in November 1999.  The Australian Observer informed the Bureau that the report of the desktop study is being finalised and will be submitted to the twenty-third extraordinary session of the Bureau.

Context of Decision
Themes: Conservation
States Parties: Australia
Year: 1999
Decision Code: CONF 204 IV.B.24